Tag Archives: Museum of Biblical Arts

Final Words About the Museum of Biblical Arts

Detail of Title Page from a book in the MBA gift shop.

Detail of Title Page from a book in the MBA gift shop.

TRAVEL HERE: MORE GOOD STUFF AND MORE QUESTIONS AT MBA

OK, we’re back at the Museum of Biblical Arts in Dallas.  I’ve been warming up on the sculpture garden and one wing of the museum for several weeks.  I need to move on and need to tell you about the rest of it.

National Center for Jewish Art

I confess!  The murals on the walls of this gallery were some of my favorites items exhibited in this museum.  I’m a big fan of the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition.  The remarkable works on these walls were a contemporary look at these timeless things.  Even though I was trying to hurry through to keep up with my friends, I was forced to stop and ponder these images.  What were they representing?  Were the images Biblical or merely traditional?  Did I like them?  How did the titles relate to the work?

A Hallway Full of King James Bibles and a Library

One area that I definitely didn’t give enough time was the hallway full of historic King James Bibles.  At the end of the hallway was a library dedicated to Charles Ryrie, the man who wrote the Bible Commentary I most frequently refer to.  This exhibit and library are proof enough that the MBA deserves your attention.  The books on display are rare, ancient and beautiful.  I yearned for an opportunity to touch a page, even if it had to be with a glove-clad finger.

Contemporary Gallery

This was not one of my favorite galleries.  I’m not a big fan of Chagall.  I admire his creativity, but not the way he expressed it – if that makes any sense.  Half this gallery was devoted to pictures painted “in the style of Chagall”, but few were actually by Chagall.  That’s part of what kept nagging at me as I visited the museum.  Don’t give me replicas, prints, in style of or from the studio of.  In the days before the internet I can understand people being eager to see replicas or prints or anything that would give them an idea of these beautiful works of art they would never see, but nowadays you can gawk at a reasonable facsimile of almost any work of art you so desire, in your pajamas, without leaving your sofa.  If I’m going to get dressed and drive to a museum, I want to see the real thing or a new thing I wouldn’t look up online.

Also confusing in this gallery was a roped off section.  It looked like a storeroom where items were being crated or uncrated, but no one was working in there, so I couldn’t tell whether the art was coming or going.  Later an adjacent hallway was filled with similarly semi-packed objects’d art.  Inquiring minds want to know what was going on.

Odds and Ends

In halls behind the Contemporary Gallery and the Library, were two thought provoking pieces.  One was a photograph of a “Last Supper” but all the people in the picture were dressed as if they were characters in Japanese Noh theater.  Even when I don’t want to think about this painting, it keeps teasing the corners of my mind. The other item was a painting called the Tapestry of the Ages by Vladimir Gorsky.  I could have spent hours identifying the hundreds of people in this painting and considering their contribution to this world.

I stepped into the ballroom of the museum (They do weddings!) and was disappointed to discover it was covered with landscape paintings.  From a visit I made to the museum about the time it opened ( I actually think it was some kind of preview event) I had remembered the ballroom being home to something remarkable – and it may have been the resurrection mural, but it also seems there were pictures of the apostles.  (I was in the throws of care-giving drama. I didn’t get a blog written, so I can remember being impressed, just not by what!)  I want to be clear that the landscapes are wonderful.  Since they are landscapes of Israel, I can even understand their presence in a Biblical arts, it’s just that I miss whatever was there before!  I hate to think they removed the art to help sell the venue.

And while I’m complaining, if they are going to display an exhibition in the ballroom, then it needs to look like an exhibition space, not a catch all.  There were tables and chairs scattered around the room in no apparent order and the chairs were more randomly placed than the tables.  In one chair set a photo of the ballroom all tricked out for a reception.  My bet is someone left it behind after a meeting with a bride-to-be.  I’d already been chafed by the crating/uncrating debris spread out in the hall and gallery.  This added to my dysphoria.

The Main Attraction

The featured exhibit this summer is “God in the Garden, The Impressionistic Works of Henrietta Milan.”  I had somehow missed the signage for this part of the galleries.  I wandered in from the landscapes and found myself in galleries of Monet-like garden paintings.  They were gorgeous.  I wanted one of each, but I kept wondering what made them Biblical Art.

Come to find out, the paintings were by a Texas Impressionist and to quote the attendant at the ticket counter Milan is “very spiritual in her approach to painting.”  Okay…  I’m thrilled this Texas artist is getting exposure in a museum of this caliber, but I still have to wonder why.  In the catalog I purchased from the gift shop, Scott Peck, the Executive Director and Curator of the Museum, waxes eloquent, using the old hymn “In the Garden” as the springboard for his discussion of her art.  The brief article was interesting, even eloquent, but for me, it didn’t connect the dots.

I’ve rattled on far too long today, but there was no way I was going to have a fifth post in this series.  I am always honest with you in my reviews.  When I rave, you can trust that it was very good.  When I rant, you know something was very wrong with my experience.  I wanted very much to rave about the MBA and while there is a lot which is very rave-worthy, that’s not the whole story.  I don’t really want to rant against the museum, but there is also some dissonance resounding from my visit.  I hope you’ll go visit and tell me what you think.

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Exhibits in the Museum of Biblical Art

Catalog from a current exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art

Catalog from a current exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art

TRAVEL HERE: WHAT YOU’LL SEE AT THE MBA

I certainly didn’t anticipate a multi-post series on the Museum of Biblical Art  (MBA) when I sat down to write about my recent visit, but that’s what it’s turned into.  We’ve chatted about the origins and history of the place, discussed the sculpture garden, a little architecture and the people who visited the museum with me.  Finally, lets get down to the art!   

So What is a Biblical Art?

That’s a good question but I don’t know if I have an appropriate answer.  Inside the museum are examples of Judaica, modern mosaics, a bronze replica of the Pieta and an exhibition of some lovely gardenscapes, along with a collection of antique Bibles, a lot of statuary, many paintings and some prints loaned by Thomas Kinkaid.  Basically, if art has to do with the Bible, then it’s Biblical Art.

A Typical Thomas Kinkaid print - from a devotional book from the shelves of my personal library

A Typical Thomas Kinkaid print – from a devotional book from the shelves of my personal library

I did some reading up on the museum as I wrote these posts and what the museum really doesn’t want to do is push a particular religious persuasion and that’s OK, but in truth, I found the exhibits a little uneven.  Across the gallery from a huge and powerful original painting of the Resurrection by Ron Dicianni was a print by Thomas Kinkaid I usually see on thank you notes.  Gorgeous Judaic religious items in silver and gold were around the corner from a guy painting in the style of Chagall.  There were a few items by Chagall himself, but most were by this guy I didn’t know.   Many of the items in the museum were engaging, but others I merely found confusing.

A Souvenir Bookmark from the gift shop.

A Souvenir Bookmark from the gift shop.

Let’s Get Going

The first area we entered was the Colonnade and the map says it holds works by American artists.  However, the hallway was full of magnificent pieces of Judaica in silver and gold.  Book-sized containers of gold and silver held miniature religious objects of the Jewish faith.  They were gorgeous and interesting, but I didn’t see any symbols advising me of pieces described on the free audio tour, so even though I loved them I can’t tell you their significance.  They are also left off the museum’s website, so it’s a mystery.  Were the items created by American artists and if so, why are they disguised in ingenious containers that look like books?  I didn’t get to read all of the signs all the way through, so I moved on with a lot of questions.

The next room was the McCreless Collection of European Art.  I did listen to the audio tour’s description of the gallery.  The gentleman who owns the collection didn’t go into a museum until he was in his 40’s and when he did, he fell in love with religious art and started collecting.  His taste is eclectic, just like the museum his art is featured in.  I saw a Coptic Cross, the life-sized Pieta replica I mentioned and a number of paintings that said they were after the style of or painted by the studio of artists I was familiar with.  I’m still trying to figure out why anyone would want a huge bronze replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.  I could see it in a local church, (maybe) but a museum?  It baffled me.

Detail of Queen Esther from Resurrection mural

Detail of Queen Esther from Resurrection mural

At the end of the Colonnade was a mixed bag.  My first glance in the room landed on one of the Thomas Kinkaid prints.  I happen to like Thomas Kinkaid in most situations, but being as familiar with him as I am, I almost didn’t bother going into the room and that would have been a mistake.  Also in the room is the huge Resurrection mural on canvas.  The chotskish souvenir bookmark does it no justice, because in real life the tomb is open and the painting is gorgeous.   The detail of Queen Esther is just a hint of its beauty.

The Jesus I grew up loving.

The Jesus I grew up loving.

The Resurrection mural distracted us for so long that I almost missed the familiar drawing of Jesus I had seen so many times as a child.  Intellectually I realized this stylized face of an American WASP is most likely not the face of the Resurrected Lord, but I have to confess that many times in my prayer, especially in my prayers addressing my deepest fears, this is the face I conjure when I cry out to Jesus.

I can’t believe it, but I’ve run out of words again and we’ve only scratched the surface.  I promise if you will come back next week I’ll tell you about the rest of the museum!

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A Visit to the Museum of Biblical Arts

TRAVEL HERE: MBA WORTH A VISIT

So last week I suggested you visit the Via Dolorosa Sculpture Garden at Dallas’ Museum of Biblical Arts.  It’s free and right across the street from NorthPark.  I also think you should go inside the museum.  Let me tell you about my recent visit.

An Outing with the Buffalo Gals

I live in a subdivision called Buffalo Creek and facilitate a Bible study for women in and around the neighborhood.  Mind you, I’m just the facilitator.  The irrepressible Beth Moore is the teacher, through her marvelous collection of video series.  We’re on our third and have plenty more to keep us busy.  We call ourselves the Buffalo Gals.

The group is small and while we’re officially a Bible Study, we’re also a group of friends.  We’ve developed the tradition of having some fun along the way.  We have lunch together on Bible Study day, find reasons to celebrate occasions together and each of Beth’s series is interrupted by what we call a field trip or play date.

Right now we’re doing a series on David and we decided to visit the Museum of Biblical Arts (MBA).  For good measure we planned for lunch to be across the street at Neiman Marcus’ NM Cafe.  So, the day definitely started out with the right vibes.

Where Do You Go In?

On a recent Wednesday morning the Buffalo Gals pulled up to the MBA a few moments after it opened and the parking lot was virtually empty.  Piling out of the car we stumbled into the Sculpture Garden and began orientating ourselves to the art.  Some of our members weren’t familiar with the Stations of the Cross, so we shared our experiences.

I was particularly fond of the MBA’s Via Dolorosa, because they didn’t leave Jesus in the Tomb the way the traditional Stations of the Cross do.  The garden includes a sculpture of the Risen Christ.  Hallelujah!  There were a few other pieces of sculpture by the same artist in the garden which were unrelated to the Via Dolorosa.  Most of them I liked, but his Rachel by the Well looked like an old woman, not the fresh-faced girl that inspired a man to labor fourteen years for the privilege of marrying her.

Then we had to decide how to enter the building.  It seemed logical to enter via the Damascus Gate replica next to the Sculpture Garden, but that was locked.  So we went to the double doors next to a porte-cochère on the front of the building.  I’m no architect, but the entrance seemed a little abrupt.  There is virtually no gathering space under the porte-cochère.  Nor is there much in the way of a vestibule inside the front of the building.  You open the door and are standing at the ticket counter.  If these guys ever booked a blockbuster exhibition they’d need to re-think the entry, but I digress.

The entry fee is $12, less for children, seniors, students and such.  Included with your entry ticket is an audio guide.  This makes the price very reasonable.  I have to admit I didn’t use my audio guide as much as I usually would, because I was trying not to slow down my friends.  The few bits I did listen to were very interesting, but it would take hours to listen to all the recordings as you wandered around.  I just promised myself I would hear them next time.

Well, look at this, I’ve used up all my words for today and I haven’t even gotten past the ticket counter.  Well, come back next week.  There’s a lot to see.

 

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Museum of Biblical Arts, Dallas TX

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Brochure for Museum of Biblical Art Sculpture Garden

TRAVEL HERE: SERENE OASIS AWAITS ACROSS BOEDECKER FROM NORTHPARK

When you think about attractions in Dallas you’ve got a lot to choose from.  Theme parks, museums, shopping – you name it, but you may not have even heard of the Museum of Biblical Arts (MBA).  Many locals haven’t and even among those who have, there’s a good chance they haven’t visited.  Let me encourage you to change that.

Oh, Has That Place Re-opened?

The Museum of Biblical Arts used to be a little better well known.  When I moved to Dallas in the late sixties, it was all the rage.  NorthPark, which is right across the street, was still brand spanking new and the only other museums in town were out at Fair Park.  The Dallas Arts District might have been in someone’s dreams, but there was no hint of it on our horizon.  The Biblical Arts museum featured a large mural of the Miracle of Pentecost.  You went into a gallery, the room went dark and a sort of light show picked out parts of the painting as the story of Pentecost was narrated.

I remember hearing all kinds of rumors about the painting.  I heard the building it was painted in used to be part of the cemetery next door, which I believe is actually true, but I also heard rumors of wild parties, addiction, affairs and extortion which I doubt had any basis in fact.  Whatever the reality, the experience of seeing the painting was exciting and over the years the museum surrounding the painting grew into a lovely building featuring a replica of Christ’s tomb.

Then in 2005 there was a fire.  I was out in California at the time, so I don’t know much about it first-hand.  I know it burned up the Pentecost painting.  It seems the rest of the museum was open for a while after that, but I could be wrong.  Then they announced the museum would be upgraded.  I do know the museum was closed for renovation for a long time.  More rumors abounded.  The fire had been a case of arson to force a remodel.  Somebody had embezzled everything.  Fighting among the board.  Probably none of that actually happened, but the construction of the new building seemed to take forever and the longer it took, the more the dis-information grew.

The museum re-opened in 2010, but while it was closed it disappeared from Dallas’ consciousness.  Occasionally, I’d hear someone ask about that building across from NorthPark, but over time the answers deteriorated from remarks about the old museum, to guesses that it might have been some kind of church.  In case you were wondering, the museum is back and it’s pretty darned good!

 

Free Sculpture Garden is Tip of the Iceberg

Your first trip to the MBA could be short and free!  On the north side of the museum (which is on the west side of NorthPark) is a beautiful sculpture garden called the Via Dolorosa, featuring the compelling sculptures of Gib Singleton.  According to your religious affiliation or lack thereof, you might be more familiar with terms like “The Way of the Cross” or “Stations of the Cross” than you are Via Dolorosa.  The literal translation from the Latin is “Way of Sorrows” and it memorializes the events of the Crucifixion.

I knew the Stations of the Cross were a liturgical tradition memorialized in churches across the world.  I’ve seen evidence of it in everything from elaborate murals to stained glass windows to wooden plaques painted with Roman numerals.  An MBA brochure informed me St. Francis of Assisi began the tradition in the 13th century.

Gib Singleton’s style for the sculpture is called  Emotional Realism, which the Oxford Dictionary tells me is “a representational quality in a narrative that is felt to be ‘true-to-life’.  I’d say it was more like sculptural impressionism.  The sculptures are obviously representational, but they aren’t smooth marble and gleaming metal.  They are bronze, but ruggedly cast.

The north side of the museum building is a replica of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, so the sculpture garden stands in a dramatic setting.  The Texas heat is doing a number on the gardening efforts, but it is a beautiful space and it’s surprising to find it across the street from one of the nation’s premiere shopping.  The garden and it’s sculptures are open to the public for free.

On you next trip to NorthPark, you could drop by for a few moments for meditation or art appreciation, but be warned, you might be inspired to visit the museum, so perhaps you should allow more time.  come back next week and I’ll tell you what you’ll see inside.

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